Saturday, December 02, 2006


The Prior's Office and cell look out onto half of Bridgeport. This fact, combined with the blessing and curse of acute hearing means that I wake several times each winter to the sound of spinning tires as inexperienced drivers attempt to extract their cars from snowdrifts. I was treated to the first such spectacle of the young season this morning at 2:00 a.m. by the time I reached the window, the driver of a pick-up truck was stepping out of the door and saying to her companion: "We're almost there!"

I came to driving maturity upon the Frozen Tundra ® of Green Bay, Wisconsin. So getting out of huge drifts is second nature to me. This poor driver, contrary to her perception, was not almost out; rather she had almost finished off a perfectly polished layer of ice under her back tires and was dangerously close to toasting her engine. So I quickly threw on some shoes and a coat (monks ought always to sleep clothed!) and went to offer help, both in terms of experience and whatever brawn I have.

By the time I had reached the door, they had figured what needed to be done: crank the steering wheel hard to the left and shift into reverse (there wasn't anyone behind them!). Relieved, I went back to bed, but of course not to sleep immediately.

The predicament of being stuck in a snowdrift is not unlike the situation of being stuck in a particular sin (and this happens to most of us in our lives). We want very badly to be freed of it and be on our way, then temptation comes and we are overthrown. We make various efforts and just when we think that we are getting somewhere, we discover that we are actually worse off than before.

Not infrequently, this predicament comes about because we don't fully allow God to help push us out. Somewhere inside, we suspect that we ought to be perfect, or at least pretty darn good before we approach God. Otherwise, we might disappoint Him. This, of course, is reasoning backward. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us to prove God's love for us.

Another problem one finds in trying to push cars out of snowdrifts is that the inexperienced driver is often too impatient to listen to what the Cheesehead has to offer (this failure, by the way, is more common to men). Several times I recall pleading with drivers not to 'gun it'; go forward a llliiittle bit, then rock it back, then forward a little father, and so on. What do they do? Vrrrrmmmm! And lo, they can hardly believe that they are actually dug in further! Meanwhile, the Cheesehead is trying to remain patient and explain that this isn't working.

Similarly, God offers us all kinds of helps. But they are humble, humbling, and often counter-intuitive for anyone who is used to figuring things out on his own. The result of our not wanting to rely on God is that our efforts that seem to have us 'almost there!' in fact are digging us deeper in; at root the particular sin is no longer the problem; the lack of faith and stubborn self-reliance are much more serious. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the sacraments: listen to the advice of our loving Father!

Finally: who is ultimately responsible when the car makes it out: the person at the wheel, or the person shouting instructions and pushing? Answer: both. So it is with nature and grace. We can't get out if God doesn't help, but we also can't get out if we fail to step on the gas when He says, "Go!"

1 comment:

Jorge Sanchez said...

Excellent post! I've linked to it on my 'blog.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page